SURFSIDE BEACH — Terry Boland knew that if he wanted his taxes done for free, he’d have to arrive early at the Horry County Library’s branch in Surfside Beach.
Though volunteer tax experts from the American Association of Retired Persons didn’t start helping local taxpayers file their tax returns until a few minutes before Monday’s scheduled 1 to 5 p.m. session, Boland arrived around 9:30 a.m.
“Two or three times last year I got here around the starting time and was told to come back another time,” said the Murrells Inlet resident, who walked out of a large library meeting room around 2 p.m. with his 2013 tax returns filed electronically. “So this year, I didn’t wait.”
With the April 15 tax deadline a little more than a month away, about three dozen taxpayers were able to get their returns completed Monday by AARP volunteers. On a beautiful March afternoon, all the parking spaces in the Surfside Beach Library lot were filled, forcing several visitors to park along nearby streets or behind the tennis courts at Fuller Park.
“It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s free,” Boland explained.
Stu Rovin, who has supervised AARP Tax Aide sessions at Horry County sites the last five years, said the sessions have filled up since beginning in early February. Turnout has also been heavy at similar free sessions run by the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, whose volunteers also are certified by the Internal Revenue Service.
“A lot of people want to get it over with,” said Rovin, a Philadelphia native who moved to the Grand Strand 11 years ago. “The tax codes have gotten so complex that most people either need a computer program or personal help doing their taxes. Our volunteers absolutely like helping their neighbors.”
At AARP and VITA sessions, taxpayers should bring a photo ID with their Social Security number, their revenue statements and all necessary tax forms. A handful of volunteers sit down with taxpayers and prepare their returns on laptop computers. Two or three other volunteers make a final review before the returns are sent.
Rovin said the majority of the returns take about 30 minutes to complete. But AARP volunteers also prepare more complicated returns, including investment income.
Taxpayers are called individually from a signup sheet. The AARP sessions are open to all age groups, though the majority of attendees are retirees. VITA attendees must meet more stringent age and income requirements. Volunteers must pass an IRS test each year.
Many taxpayers waiting for assistance read books and periodicals from the library to pass the time.
“This is terrific,” Prestwick resident Roy Lucas said of the help he received. “I’ve come here the last few years.”
Rovin said taxpayers expecting refunds tend to have their returns done earlier in the tax season. Those expecting to owe money to the federal and state governments usually have more complicated returns and wait to file until closer to April 15.